Moral relativism

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Moral relativism is the theory that moral standards vary from society to society, and from time to time in history. Under this theory, ethical principles are not universal and are instead social products. This theory argues that there is no objective moral order or absolute truth. As examples, the acceptance of variability in what is seen as moral and of the variability of the application of those morals is seen throughout history: with the holocaust-genocide of the Jews by the Nazi Party, the enslavement of the African people by both European and American powers, the persecution (including torture and murder) of Christians during Roman times and in Communist states, all justified by the perpetrators in morally relativistic terms. Two more examples may be cited, which get to the heart of the matter, although subtly; for one Hitler justified his racial policies by saying:

The greatest achievements in intellectual life can never be produced by those of alien race but only by those who are inspired by the Aryan or German spirit. In view of the narrowness of the space within which German intellectual work and German intellectual workers have to live they had a natural moral claim to precedence and preference.[1]

Similarly, the case for slavery was often made in morally relativistic terms, with Thomas Dew arguing in 1832 that:

With regard to the assertion, that slavery is against the spirit of Christianity, we are ready to admit the general assertion, but deny most positively that there is any thing in the Old or New Testament, which would go to show that slavery, when once introduced, ought at all events to be abrogated, or that the master commits any offence in holding slaves. The children of Israel themselves were slave holders, and were not condemned for it.…When we turn to the New Testament, we find not one single passage at all calculated to disturb the conscience of an honest slave holder.[2]

In reference to these examples, both arguments depend on the false underlying belief, not found in the Bible, of an absence of a species-specific human nature which serves as a motive for us to adopt certain universal moral laws to direct our ways towards all human beings.

Social sciences

In recent times, according to the Discovery Institute:

Moral relativism was uncritically adopted by much of the social sciences, and it still under girds much of modern economics, political science, psychology and sociology. [1]

"Character morality" and its two opposite errors

Facts about human nature and laws of human nature

Many moral relativists might argue that there are no dependable laws concerning human nature to which a constant moral precept could apply. But there are probably fewer who would say there are no facts about human beings that it is possible to generalize as belonging to human nature.

Christian belief

The Bible can be taken as including many facts about human nature itself, although rarely combined together to be stated as laws of human nature. But that the Bible includes both, directly, probably ought to be taken as good as an assertion that belief in human nature is a sort of preamble to the faith it reveals. A proof text for such a law might be John 3:16: "For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life." Stated as law or rule of human nature this might read, "Every person who believes in the Son may have eternal life (because they have that capacity)".

The opposite extreme

Therefore, the denial of human nature is not of faith, or at least can restrict faith. There is an opposite extreme, the details of which belonging to their own article, which might be called "moral determinism", which states that human behavior is substantially determined or fixed by the lower aspects of human nature and environment and that a morally good or bad conscience is an illusion. Both extremes are non-Biblical, and both extremes, though contradictory, are accepted in liberalism. This gives support to the suggestion that these two extremes are not really reasoned beliefs so much as evasions.

Moral relativism vs. absolute Right or Wrong

Moral relativity is a philosophy that states there is no absolute Right or Wrong, and that anyone can freely use his own conscience to decide what is moral. A moral relativist will not say that theft or murder is wrong, because he believes it is up to the murderer or thief to decide whether his behavior is justified. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." (Proverbs 14:12)

Moral relativity and related foolish thinking is what allows liberals to support abortion, alleged homosexual rights, and drug abuse. Moral relativity erodes principled self-defense and thereby leads to misguided demands for gun control as well as psychiatric problems resulting from a lack of mental self-defense.

Moral relativism and theory of relativity

While the idea of moral relativity exists independently of (and substantially predates) the scientific theory of relativity, moral relativists seized on the theory of relativity to legitimize their views. Historians such as Paul Johnson wrote about how the theory of relativity caused a sea change, justified or not, in 20th century thought.

Moral relativism as TUMOR

According to Ryan Dobson[3] moral relativism is a philosophy that can be abbreviated with mnemonic word TUMOR:

  • Tolerant: Moral relativism represents a hypocritical culture in which the "tolerance" is emphasized (tolerance is "king") even though not honored even-handedly. Criticism is not welcome except against opponents who dare to show their own independent opinion deviating from what is considered as 'politically correct'. A misconceived virtue of tolerance ends up in tolerance of moral deviations and vileness.[4] Distorted philosophy of tolerance leads to life in complete opposition to its own central belief. Christianity calling for moral responsibility is however not tolerated by "tolerance brigade".[3] Its organized form, especially of a hierarchical sort, is a definite no-no.[note 1] Still, a moral relativist may be open to forms of Christianity offering spiritual experiences but would get likely offended by 'arrogant' claims of Absolute Truth. Spirituality, whatever its source, is intriguing. The post-modern mindset of moral relativist tends to 'mix and match' ideas wherever they come from[note 2] and the borders between reality and fantasy are blurred.[note 3][5] The twisted perception of tolerance can be traced back to Gnosticism where it was one of its fundamental hallmarks.[6]
  • Untraditional: The culture of moral relativism naively favors everything labelled as "alternative": alternative music, alternative voices, alternative medicine, alternative life styles. The rebellion against traditional values is promoted, often in form of provoking obscene "cultural" expressions.[note 4] The favorite topic of modern profane relativists is, for example, a fictional story on relationship between Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene such as one by Jose Saramago in his blasphemous work The Gospel According to Jesus Christ. Another example might be movie Million Dollar Baby which is compared with Nazi movie Ich klage an (I Accuse) banned by Allies after World War II due to its hidden propaganda promoting Nazi program for euthanasia.[8] Ironically, after the state adopted their agenda, the homosexuals in Norwegian radio 'radiOrakel' expressed their disappointment that "there is no fun being gay in Norway anymore ... all exotic part of being gay or lesbian is gone".[9] What counts is having fun now, living for sensuous gratification and excitement at the very present moment.[5][note 5] Moral relativists don't truly want anything that is unusual or new - because if they did, then Christianity might eventually become an alternative they would have to try. What they really want is anti-Christianity. Moral relativism actively rejects the faith of the New Testament and strongly recommends to pick another, more "flexible" belief system.[note 6]
  • Marginalized: Moral relativism is a culture that portrays delinquents as "victims". The misdeeds of celebrities, athletes, and politicians are quickly forgotten because their sordid behavior is deemed as driven by the unreasonable demands of fame and fortune. For example, supporters of Bill Clinton never wavered after the truth about the Lewinsky affair came out, claiming he was the victim of a right-wing conspiracy. In a society marked by moral relativism addictions are portrayed as handicaps void of any personal responsibility of their practitioners[11] while many times the really handicapped people struggle to get their support.[12] Social scientist Charles Sykes provided a classic example of how deeply victim psychology has permeated American culture. An FBI agent, who was fired for his crime of embezzling amount of money and using it for gambling, went to court. There he successfully argued that his gambling behavior was a handicap, protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Thus, the FBI was forced to reinstate him.[13] Ironically, adherents of moral relativism are themselves victims of the ideomotor effect that has more to do with self-delusion rather than just with external entities.
  • Outdoors: Moral relativism is associated with radical environmentalism. Many of the same protagonists who defend a woman's "right" to kill her unborn child would hurl themselves in front of a bulldozer to rescue a nest of spotted owl eggs.
  • Reprobate: Reprobrate means marked with immorality; deviating from what is considered right or proper or good. The culture of moral relativism has adopted an "anything goes"[note 7] morality, a kind of moral whatever-ness. Individuals are misusing their own rights without respecting the rights of others and often even without sensing they violate them.[note 8] The typical example is a burglar who broke into a private house and sued the owners because he slipped on their floor.

Moral Relativism and Absolute Truth

The death of the death of absolute truth
And what about the idea that there is no absolute truth? I mean, first of all, the statement itself is a declaration of absolute truth. If you have a moral relativist friend who says, "There is no such thing as absolute truth," he's laying out a truth that he believes will never change. He should put it this way: "It is absolute truth, that there is no such thing as absolute truth." Isn't that crazy? It's self-refuting. It's like me saying, "This sentence does not exist."
— Ryan Dobson[3]

Moral relativists like to proclaim the death of absolute truth. Their self-refuting argument is however based on logical fallacy known as reductio ad absurdum since they implicitly assume the existence of the very same thing they try to deny. Dobson concludes with some irony that "The absolute truth is alive and well, and moral relativists count on it every day."[3]

See also

Notes

  1. cf. article II: 'Intolerance' in Anti-Christian sentiment
  2. cf.Syncretism
  3. cf.Logic of possibility and Postmodern science
  4. cf. "Madonna told me to break every rule I could think of, and then when I was done to make up some new ones and break them." - the choreographer of Madonna's 1990 world tour[7]
  5. cf. Hedonism
  6. cf. "Russel, in particular, was so found of tergiversation that another celebrated British philosopher, C.D. Broad, once said, 'As we all know, Mr. Russell produces a different system of philosophy every few years.'"[10]
  7. Anything goes is also a principle of methodological anarchism of Paul Karl Feyerabend that rejects the existence of privilege of norms.[14]
  8. cf. Disturbed character

See also

References

  1. Hitler, Adolf (April 1933). "Hitler speech to the Doctors’ Union in April 1933 on racial purification of the German people". The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, N. H. Baynes, ed. (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1942), vol. 1, p. 728. Republished at University of the West of England website/Web Genocide Documentation Centre (September 1999), Dr. S. D. Stein, ed. Retrieved from November 3, 1999 archive at Internet Archive.
  2. Dew, Thomas (1832). "Text of the pro-slavery argument (1832, by Thomas Dew)". American History Told by Contemporaries, Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1901), vol. 3. Reprinted in Dictionary of American History (2003), Baumann, Mark D. (Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale). Republished at Encyclopedia.com website (Boston, Massachusetts: Cengage Learning, 2009 or bef.)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Ryan Dobson, Jefferson Scott (2007). Be Intolerant in Love: Because Some Things Are Just Stupid. Sisters, OR, USA: Tyndale House Publishers, 121. ISBN 978-1590-521526. 
  4. Alexander Tomský (08-April-2013). Proč žijeme v absurdním světě? (Why we are living in an absurd world?) (Czech). tyzden.sk. Retrieved on 14-April-2013. “Špatně pochopená pokora myšlení vede k relativizmu, špatně pochopená mírumilovnost k pacifismu, špatně pochopená svoboda k anarchii, špatně pochopená důstojnost k bezuzdnému voluntarismu a špatně pochopená cnost snášenlivosti k toleranci deviace a vulgarity.”
  5. 5.0 5.1 Deborah Meroff (2011). Europe:Restoring Hope. OM Books. ISBN 978-3-941750-06-7. 
  6. Oskar Skarsaune (2002). "12:Orthodoxy and Heresy", In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influence on Early Christianity. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 252. ISBN 978-0-8308-2844-9. “Such was the Gnostic position. It must have had much to recommend it to Hellenistic minds. And there was one added attraction: Gnosticism was tolerant. For most Gnostics, burning incense before Caesar's image or fulfilling other social necessary religious obligations was no problem. It was in any case a merely outward rite, it did not affect one's soul.” 
  7. Guinness, Os (2007). in Virginia Mooney Withrow: When no one sees: Character and leadership in an age of Image. McLean, Virginia: TheTrinityForum.org. ISBN 1-57683-159-0. 
  8. Vladimír Palko (2012). Levy prichdzajú (Lions are coming) (in Slovak). Prešov, Slovakia: Vydavateľstvo Michala Vaška. ISBN 978-80-7165-870-2. 
  9. Feministická a queer emancipace v Norsku (Feministic and queer emancipation in Norway) (Czech, English) 2min:26sec. Česká televize. Retrieved on 2012-10-26.
  10. Antony Flew (2008). There is a God, How the world's most notorious atheist changed his mind. HarperOne, VIII, XXI. ISBN 978-0-06-133530-3. 
  11. (2010) It's Not My Fault: The No-Excuse Plan for Overcoming Life's Obstacles. Thomas Nelson Inc, 4. ISBN 9781418567989. “…two girls were overweight and claimed that McDonald’s was responsible for their eating habits. The attorney for the plaintiffs argued that McDonald’s food was “physically or psychologically addictive.” From that perspective, the poor girls just did not have a chance. The Golden Arches reached out and grabbed them, pulled them in, and forced-fed them. … How did we get to the place where someone would even think that they could sue a hamburger chain for their weight problem? Was it the permissive sixties that did away with personal responsibility in our culture?” 
  12. Arkady Mamontov. Sodom 11min:50sec. Retrieved on 9 January 2016. “All over the world there are serious breaches of human rights, people are being killed, being tortured, they have to flee their homelands and cross the borders, living in the refugee camps; and this organization, instead of focusing on the true needs of the people around the world, they are trying to declare that homosexuality is a human right and they are devoting vast amounts of money to promote this agenda around the world instead of addressing genuine human rights.”
  13. Chuck Colson (August 22, 2002). 'It's Not My Fault': A Nation of Victims. BreakPoint. Retrieved on April 14, 2013. “Social scientist Charles Sykes tells the story of an FBI agent who embezzled $2,000 and used it for gambling. When he was fired for his crime, the agent did what a lot of folks do today: He began looking around to see whom he could blame. After he was fired, the FBI agent went to court. He successfully argued that his gambling behavior was a handicap, protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. And the FBI was forced to reinstate him. It's a classic example of how deeply victim psychology has permeated our culture.”
  14. Gabriele Kuby. Globálna Sexuálna Revolúcia. Strata Slobody v mene Slobody. (Global Sexual Revolution. The loss of Freedom in the name of Freedom.) (in Slovak). Bratislava, Slovakia: Lúč. ISBN 978-80-7114-922-4. “The title in German original is “Die Globale sexualle Revolution.””